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Vagabonds in Madagascar Part 4


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Vagabonds in Madagascar Part 4 (and last)

 

Rija had mentioned a caveat when he handed over our tickets for five internal flights. "Madagascar Airlines – not a serious airline". We had already discovered that departure times tended to parallel the G.W.R system – ie "Goes When Ready" (like 45 minutes early) but our first two flights had connected without mishap. We had two more flights to get from Toliary to Fort Dauphin. Again there was no direct flight that day, so it was another case of back to the capital and change planes. Our first flight was an hour late, but we were told it was OK, the connection would wait.

 

So it did – instead of taking off at 10.25 am, it finally left at 7.30 pm. Something like a nine-hour wait at Antananarivo airport, but we did discover the restaurant did a splendid Chinese soup. A huge bowl, which must have held a litre of soup, containing the usual Chinese mixture of pork, chicken, duck, prawns, vegetables and noodles – all for about £1.50.

 

The flight was scheduled to take just over an hour, but we were in the air for nearly two and a half hours, due to such a severe tropical storm that we had to wait for it to pass before we could land at Fort Dauphin. An amazing display of lightning flashes between the clouds. Luckily the airline was "serious" enough to carry reserve fuel !

 

Our main objective in this SE tip of Madagascar was the "spiny forest" which held some interesting endemic birds. The spiny forest is made up of lots of these plants, but growing to twenty feet high and densely intertangled.

plentyoftheseinthespiny.jpg

 

Amongst the birds seen were these two Torotoroka Scops Owls which we found at roost.

torotorokascopsowlberen.jpg

 

Our fifth and last internal flight was back to Antananarivo, where we met up with Rija again, who had organised a car and driver for getting to our final location in the rain forest south of the capital. Rija was in a bad way, as after our upset in the pirogue we had all been well bitten by mosquitoes in the village. We were both on Larium, but Rija was not, and had contracted a bad dose of malaria as a result. He had also picked up a chest infection, but nevertheless had turned out to see we were on schedule for the final part of our trip.

 

Said goodbye to Rija, and then a hair-raising drive, with Raina, our driver, driving like Jehu, to Andesibe, about 120 km south of Antananarivo. Two narrow escapes from head-on collisions at blind bends, and witnessed three accidents. The last of these had involved a driver that Raina knew, and he stopped, there was an exchange in Malagasy, and we learnt that this driver had asked Raina to contact his employers so they could send him another car.

 

"Hmmm" I said, "If he has crashed one car, why should they send him another? They do not need a driver who crashes cars" Raina must have thought about that, because the driving subsequently became less hairy.

 

The final five days, spent in the rain forest, produced some excellent birds. Of the five Ground Rollers, we had seen three – the two easiest, and one considered hard to find. Of the other two, one was considered difficult, the other as near impossible. "Most difficult bird in Madagascar" said Florent, the senior guide of Andesibe National Park.

 

 

 

Florent was right, we trekked through miles of jungle, across two streams, through a marsh, to the foot of a steep hill overgrown with closely spaced trees. It was a near-solid tangle of roots, spiny bramble-like vines hanging everywhere, and deep leaf litter concealing loops of root that tried to trip you at every step. We forced our way uphill for a couple of hundred feet, and there in the crown of a pandamus tree was "the most difficult bird" – a pair of Short-legged Ground Rollers. Never mind Extreme Fishing, this was Extreme Birding, although we didn’t make as much noise about it as Robson Green.

 

Later in the day we found the Scaly Ground Roller, which completed the set of five ground rollers. That was very much more than we had hoped for and Norma was overjoyed at that. We also found a couple of the rare Collared Nightjar at roost, lying on dead leaves under an agave-like bush.

 

As I was not able to get hold of any small hooks or line finer than 30 lb nylon mono, I decided to give freshwater fishing a miss, and concentrate on observing them in the water. The fish we saw were somewhat disappointing. Even in the National parks, native fish had disappeared. Still waters had been stocked with Common Carp and alien tilapias. I saw both Nile and Mozambique Tilapias in the water, both familiar from our trips to Africa, and Red-Bellied Tilapia turned up on our plates one evening when we ordered fish and chips !

 

The only fish I had not encountered before turned up in the small stream by our lodge. It was a Blotched Snakehead, Channa maculata, about a couple of pounds or so. We watched it ambushing small tilapias one evening. Alas, this fish too is an introduced alien.

 

We didn’t go specifically to look at lemurs, but when bird-watching you inevitably come across other wildlife. Here are a couple of lemur pictures.

Verraux's Sifaka

ssifaka.jpg

 

...and a Ringtailed Lemur with youngster

ringtailedlemur.jpg

 

The birding was superb though, we saw a total of 123 species, 92 of which were new to us.

 

90 of these new species were Madagascar endemics (the other two were Eleanora’s and Sooty Falcons) There are about 120 endemic birds in Madagascar – some of which may already be extinct. Seeing three-quarters of them was something we didn’t expect to achieve, particularly as we had to miss out two locations – the first because of delays in getting out there, and the second because of the pirogue accident.

 

The accident was the sort of freak event that might happen anywhere where a foolish youth is not looking where he is going. We have travelled by pirogue many times, and Rija has been running this river trip for about ten years without problems. In no way was he to blame for the accident – and once he had recovered from the initial shock, he worked very hard to get our trip back on schedule.

 

Having said that, exploring Madagascar, like many other out-of-the-way places, is not a trip to be taken lightly. It is the sort of place where road accidents and breakdowns are frequent, violent storms occur, roads become impassable, bridges get washed away, and any river journey carries a risk. It is essential to go well-prepared, both in terms of equipment, medication and first aid, and getting yourself well clued-up on likely dangers and how to avoid them.

 

Despite the accident, we thoroughly enjoyed the trip – indeed, the only trips we regret are those we didn’t go on.

 

As a final shot here is a typical baobab tree - 1300 years old

1300yearsoldthetree.jpg

Edited by Vagabond

 

 

RNLI Governor

 

World species 471 : UK species 105 : English species 95 .

Certhia's world species - 215

Eclectic "husband and wife combined" world species 501

 

"Nothing matters very much, few things matter at all" - Plato

...only things like fresh bait and cold beer...

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Another interesting report and what an amazing tree, thanks for sharing :thumbs:

Stephen

 

Species Caught 2014

Zander, Pike, Bream, Roach, Tench, Perch, Rudd, Common Carp, Mirror Carp, Eel, Grayling, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout

Species Caught 2013

Pike, Zander, Bream, Roach, Eel, Tench, Rudd, Perch, Common Carp, Koi Carp, Brown Goldfish, Grayling, Brown Trout, Chub, Roosterfish, Dorado, Black Grouper, Barracuda, Mangrove Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Jack Crevalle, Tarpon, Red Snapper

Species Caught 2012
Zander, Pike, Perch, Chub, Ruff, Gudgeon, Dace, Minnow, Wels Catfish, Common Carp, Mirror Carp, Ghost Carp, Roach, Bream, Eel, Rudd, Tench, Arapaima, Mekong Catfish, Sawai Catfish, Marbled Tiger Catfish, Amazon Redtail Catfish, Thai Redtail Catfish, Batrachian Walking Catfish, Siamese Carp, Rohu, Julliens Golden Prize Carp, Giant Gourami, Java Barb, Red Tailed Tin Foil Barb, Nile Tilapia, Black Pacu, Red Bellied Pacu, Alligator Gar
Species Caught 2011
Zander, Tench, Bream, Chub, Barbel, Roach, Rudd, Grayling, Brown Trout, Salmon Parr, Minnow, Pike, Eel, Common Carp, Mirror Carp, Ghost Carp, Koi Carp, Crucian Carp, F1 Carp, Blue Orfe, Ide, Goldfish, Brown Goldfish, Comet Goldfish, Golden Tench, Golden Rudd, Perch, Gudgeon, Ruff, Bleak, Dace, Sergeant Major, French Grunt, Yellow Tail Snapper, Tom Tate Grunt, Clown Wrasse, Slippery Dick Wrasse, Doctor Fish, Graysby, Dusky Squirrel Fish, Longspine Squirrel Fish, Stripped Croaker, Leather Jack, Emerald Parrot Fish, Red Tail Parrot Fish, White Grunt, Bone Fish
Species Caught 2010
Zander, Pike, Perch, Eel, Tench, Bream, Roach, Rudd, Mirror Carp, Common Carp, Crucian Carp, Siamese Carp, Asian Redtail Catfish, Sawai Catfish, Rohu, Amazon Redtail Catfish, Pacu, Long Tom, Moon Wrasse, Sergeant Major, Green Damsel, Tomtate Grunt, Sea Chub, Yellowtail Surgeon, Black Damsel, Blue Dot Grouper, Checkered Sea Perch, Java Rabbitfish, One Spot Snapper, Snubnose Rudderfish
Species Caught 2009
Barramundi, Spotted Sorubim Catfish, Wallago Leeri Catfish, Wallago Attu Catfish, Amazon Redtail Catfish, Mrigul, Siamese Carp, Java Barb, Tarpon, Wahoo, Barracuda, Skipjack Tuna, Bonito, Yellow Eye Rockfish, Red Snapper, Mangrove Snapper, Black Fin Snapper, Dog Snapper, Yellow Tail Snapper, Marble Grouper, Black Fin Tuna, Spanish Mackerel, Mutton Snapper, Redhind Grouper, Saddle Grouper, Schoolmaster, Coral Trout, Bar Jack, Pike, Zander, Perch, Tench, Bream, Roach, Rudd, Common Carp, Golden Tench, Wels Catfish
Species Caught 2008
Dorado, Wahoo, Barracuda, Bonito, Black Fin Tuna, Long Tom, Sergeant Major, Red Snapper, Black Damsel, Queen Trigga Fish, Red Grouper, Redhind Grouper, Rainbow Wrasse, Grey Trigger Fish, Ehrenbergs Snapper, Malabar Grouper, Lunar Fusiler, Two Tone Wrasse, Starry Dragonet, Convict Surgeonfish, Moonbeam Dwarf Angelfish,Bridled Monocle Bream, Redlined Triggerfish, Cero Mackeral, Rainbow Runner
Species Caught 2007
Arapaima, Alligator Gar, Mekong Catfish, Spotted Sorubim Catfish, Pacu, Siamese Carp, Barracuda, Black Fin Tuna, Queen Trigger Fish, Red Snapper, Yellow Tail Snapper, Honeycomb Grouper, Red Grouper, Schoolmaster, Cubera Snapper, Black Grouper, Albacore, Ballyhoo, Coney, Yellowfin Goatfish, Lattice Spinecheek

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Dave

Brilliant stuff, did you get any pictures of the Ground Rollers?

 

Tony

Tony

 

After a certain age, if you don't wake up aching in every joint, you are probably dead.

 

 

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Brilliant stuff, did you get any pictures of the Ground Rollers?

No, it usually is not practical to try to get stills of birds in dense rainforest with a Canon Powershot A80.

 

ie Low illumination at ground level ; birds off the ground often silhouetted against what light there is; problems with automatic focussing - the stupid camera tends to focus on a branch beween you and the bird; automatic flash cuts out once the nearest twigs are exposed, and the built in delay between pressing the button and the shutter working - yes you can over-ride most of these by manual setting, by which time the bird has gone. :rolleyes:

 

The A80 is fine for fishing photos, but for birds we use Norma's video - much more versatile and flexble than the A80 - except on this occasion, when the video was suffering from terminal dampness.

 

 

RNLI Governor

 

World species 471 : UK species 105 : English species 95 .

Certhia's world species - 215

Eclectic "husband and wife combined" world species 501

 

"Nothing matters very much, few things matter at all" - Plato

...only things like fresh bait and cold beer...

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Dave

You need to get a digital SLR and have it set up for manual at the outset, but they are heavy and add to your flight baggage limits.

Tony

 

After a certain age, if you don't wake up aching in every joint, you are probably dead.

 

 

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Dave

You need to get a digital SLR and have it set up for manual at the outset, but they are heavy and add to your flight baggage limits.

 

No thanks, I prefer to look at the bird through good binoculars - rain-forest birds are very shy and tend not to hang around long. I have seen birders lugging heavy cameras, tele lenses and tripods through forests - definitely not for me. As I say, Norma usually has her video, and the best part of recording shots of birds is capturing movement. In fact the only reason for the two bird pictures in this account was because the video-camera was out of action following its immersion. Usually I don't even carry a camera whilst bird-watching.

 

 

RNLI Governor

 

World species 471 : UK species 105 : English species 95 .

Certhia's world species - 215

Eclectic "husband and wife combined" world species 501

 

"Nothing matters very much, few things matter at all" - Plato

...only things like fresh bait and cold beer...

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